The 2023 NFL Draft takes place next week, and for the Seahawks, this year's draft represents a big opportunity to improve upon a team that reached the playoffs last season. After hitting a home run in the 2022 draft, the Seahawks have even more draft capital this year, including extra first and second-round picks (No. 5 and 37 overall) that were part of the trade that sent Russell Wilson to Denver last year.
The fifth overall pick is the highest the Seahawks have had since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010, and this is just the second time in the Carroll-Schneider era that Seattle has had a pair of first-rounders in one draft, having selected Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in 2010.
"This is really an exciting opportunity for us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL Scouting combine. "We have not been in this situation, we have not felt like this ever. So all of the build up to it has been exciting, and we're hoping to obviously max out everything we can with it… We know that the opportunity is something special, so we're looking forward to it and we'll see how it goes."
With the draft coming up soon, Seahawks.com is taking a position-by-position look at where things currently stand for the Seahawks, as well as the top draft prospects at each position. We'll also look at Seattle's draft history at each position over the past 13 drafts under Schneider and Carroll.
So far we’ve covered quarterback, the defensive line/outside linebacker, the offensive line and off-ball linebacker, tight end and running back, and today we turn our attention to safety. Check back tomorrow for a look at where things stand at receiver.
Seattle's 2023 Draft Picks: Round 1, No. 5 overall (from Denver); Round 1, No. 20 overall; Round 2, No. 37 overall (from Denver); Round 2, No. 52 overall; Round 3, No. 83 overall; Round 4, No. 123 overall; Round 5, No. 151 overall (from Pittsburgh); Round 5, No. 154 overall; Round 6, No. 198 overall; Round 7, No. 237 overall.
Safety draft History Under John Schneider and Pete Carroll: Earl Thomas (No. 14 overall, 2010), Kam Chancellor (No. 133, 2010), Mark LeGree (No. 156, 2011), Winston Guy (No. 181, 2012), Ryan Murphy (No. 248, 2015), Lano Hill (No. 95, 2017), Tedric Thompson (No. 111, 2017), Marquise Blair (No. 47, 2019), Ugo Amadi (No. 132, 2019).
Where the Seahawks Stand
The Seahawks headed into the offseason with two of the NFL's best safeties already on their roster in Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, then in free agency, Seattle also added another starting-caliber safety by signing Julian Love, who is coming off the best season of his four-year career with the Giants.
After signing Love, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made sure to point out that the move had nothing to do with the futures of Adams or Diggs, but rather that the Seahawks really liked Love as a player, and that they plan to play with three safeties on the field quite a bit in 2023, which was also their plan last year before Adams suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1.
"I know there's some conversation about what we did with Julian, does that have some impact on Jamal or Quandre?" Carroll said last month. "It doesn't. We have a clear thought of what we're going to do with our guys and how we want to play them, and we feel very fortunate to have all of our guys."
With that talented trio leading the way, it would seem unlikely that the Seahawks would look to add to that position in the early rounds of next week's draft, but they aren't likely completely set at that position either. With Ryan Neal signing with Tampa Bay, Seattle's only other safety behind Adams, Diggs and Love is Joey Blount, who signed with the team as an undrafted free agent last year. The Seahawks like what they saw from Blount, who was a standout on special teams as a rookie, but that's not enough depth at the position, especially for a team that plans to use a lot of safeties, and also with Adams coming back from a serious injury.
When you also factor in the special teams value safeties tend to bring, using a mid to late-round pick on that position group could make a lot of sense even after adding Love to an already talented spot this offseason.
Rob Rang's Top 5 Safeties
Overview: Those questioning the wisdom of Seattle allocating as much of its salary cap to safeties might want to take a look at this year's rookie class, which is one of the thinnest of the 2023 draft and below average from a historical perspective, as well. Alabama's Brian Branch is the only safety I see as worthy of a first-round selection and his slight frame even complicates that, with some projecting a move in the NFL to cornerback. Three of the five highest-rated safeties on my board, in fact, below weighed in under 200 pounds at the Combine and the track record for safeties of that size in the NFL is neither good, nor long. With Seattle expected to continue to deploy three safety looks in 2022, however, adding depth in the middle and later rounds makes sense. Some of my favorite fits then for Seattle include California's Senior Bowl standout and team captain Daniel Scott, Iowa State's cornerback-turned-safety Anthony Johnson, Jr., Oklahoma State's hard-hitting Jason Taylor II, Illinois' playmaking Sydney Brown, whose twin brother, Chase, is one of my favorite running back prospects, as well as LSU's extremely versatile and battle-tested Jay Ward.
1. Brian Branch, Alabama, 6-0, 190, First-Second Round
While there are obvious coverage requirements, I've found that the single most important factor when evaluating safeties is open-field tackling ability. Branch is the best in the country in this department and he's shown consistency and physicality against the top talent in the country, easing whatever concern some have about his size.
2. Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M, 6-2, 198, Second-Third Round
Johnson looks and plays bigger than his sub-200 pounds, delivering crushing blows as a tackler and possessing enough fluidity in coverage to handle nickel duties throughout his career. His relatively spindly frame raises concerns about durability, and to this point, Johnson has proven more of a fumble-forcer (four) than a ballhawk (one interception) but he plays with the aggression and confidence Seattle likes.
3. JL Skinner, Boise State, 6-4, 209, Second-Third Round
Speaking of traits Seattle likes, with his imposing frame and propensity for game-changing plays, Skinner has drawn all sorts of comparisons to Kam Chancellor, but, with all due respect to the Seahawks Legend, this young man shows greater range in coverage. Skinner's unique blend of size and agility make him somewhat interchangeable at safety and he played all over the secondary at Boise State, collecting 208 tackles, including 8.5 for loss with seven interceptions and two forced fumbles as a celebrated three-year starter.
4. Jammie Robinson, Florida State, 5-11, 191, Third Round
A former four-star recruit who began his college career at South Carolina, Robinson transferred to FSU after a coaching change and earned All-ACC the past two years, showing range, reliable open-field tackling and ball-skills, intercepting seven of his 17 career pass breakups. What he lacks in size, Robinson makes up for in instincts and grit, comparing nicely to Seattle's current Pro Bowl free safety Quandre Diggs in some ways.
5. Jordan Battle, Alabama, 6-1, 209, Third Round
Alabama's reputation for thumpers and Battle's own last name are a bit misleading with this prototypically-built safety, whose game is actually better characterized by his savvy and playmaking ability in coverage than as a downhill intimidator as his size suggests. Pardon the pun, but this former consensus four-star recruit is as "battle-tested" as it gets, starting since his true freshman season and returning three of his six career interceptions for touchdowns.
NFL Draft expert Rob Rang identifies the top safety prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.